Peter Coyote on Robin Williams’ Suicide

by Leslie on January 16, 2015

Yes, this is old. But I just learned of it today. I wasn’t aware that Peter Coyote, who I know as an actor and a narrator, was also a Zen Buddhist priest. Here are his wise words:

Robin and I were friends. Not intimate, because he was very shy when he was not performing. Still, I spent many birthdays and holidays at his home with Marsha and the children, and he showed up at my 70th birthday to say “Hello” and wound up mesmerizing my relatives with a fifteen-minute set that pulverized the audience.

When I heard that he had died, I put my own sorrow aside for a later time. I’m a Zen Buddhist priest and my vows instruct me to try to help others. So this little letter is meant in that spirit.

Normally when you are gifted with a huge talent of some kind, it’s like having a magnificent bicep. People will say, “Wow, that’s fantastic” and they tell you, truthfully, that it can change your life, take you to unimaginable realms. It can and often does. The Zen perspective is a little different. We might say, “Well, that’s a great bicep, you don’t have to do anything to it. Let’s work at bringing the rest of your body up to that level.”

Robin’s gift could be likened to fastest thoroughbred race-horse on earth. It had unbeatable endurance, nimbleness, and a huge heart. However, it had never been fully trained. Sometimes Robin would ride it like a kayaker tearing down white-water, skimming on the edge of control. We would marvel at his courage, his daring, and his brilliance. But at other times, the horse went where he wanted, and Robin could only hang on for dear life.

In the final analysis, what failed Robin was his greatest gift—his imagination. Clutching the horse he could no longer think of a single thing to do to change his life or make himself feel better, and he stepped off the edge of the saddle. Had the horse been trained, it might have reminded him that there is always something we can do. We can take a walk until the feeling passes. We can find someone else suffering and help them, taking the attention off our own. Or, finally, we can learn to muster our courage and simply sit still with what we are thinking are insoluble problems, becoming as intimate with them as we can, facing them until we get over our fear. They may even be insoluble, but that does not mean that there is nothing we can do.

Our great-hearted friend will be back as the rain, as the cry of a Raven as the wind. He, you, and I have never for one moment not been a part of all it. But we would be doing his life and memory a dis-service if we did not extract some wisdom from his choice, which, if we ponder deeply enough, will turn out to be his last gift. He would beg us to pay attention if he could.


I Need a Numi

by Leslie on September 3, 2014

Hey, Baby, you come here often?

I’m tired of going into dirty, damp, smelly bathrooms to do my business. Clearly I’ve been going about this all wrong. This couple seems to have figured it out. They have a Numi toilet. It has a built in bidet, air dryer, seat warmer, foot warmer, light show and music. It’s so magical and lovely they seem to have put it in their living room. Which, of course, is entirely glass-walled. These people don’t throw stones. They know what’s up. I would probably put my $5,000 toilet in the living room, too.

I need a Numi.


Why I Came Back

by Leslie on August 28, 2014

Seventeen days ago I wrote this post: Top 5 Reasons Why I’m Deactivating My Facebook Account.  It’s a piece I meant, that I still mean, that I’m proud of, and that became one of the most-viewed posts on this blog. In it I explained that I found Facebook way too addictive, and that I felt it was keeping me from making deeper, more real connections. I had plans, baby. Big plans for living a more “authentic” life.

Here’s an old joke:

“How do you make God laugh?”

“Tell him your ‘plans’.”

The very morning after I posted that piece, my sister Heather found out she has breast cancer.

Those of you who know me know that Heather and I are very, very close. Even though she lives in Michigan and I live in Washington State, we talk several times a week.

We are, to put it simply, stunned. This came out of nowhere. Cancer does not run in our family.

It does now.

The good news is this: Heather’s prognosis is excellent. The bad news is she’s going to have to go through chemo, surgery, and radiation and do all of the grueling protocol stuff to get to the other side. Please do me a favor and hold her and her daughter Lillian in your most loving thoughts. If you’re the praying type, I’d like you to send a few up for her.

A few people have asked me how my “No Facebook” life has been going. While I can speak a tiny bit about being more productive in other aspects of my life, it’s really hard to give any sort of report because the world looks different now. I don’t have a baseline with which to compare.

But I will tell you this: Being apart from my sister during this time is very difficult. Being apart from family and friends is, too. This is a time for gathering the tribe. For keeping in touch. For being with each other in any way we can.

So I’m going back on Facebook. I need all the community I can get right now.

If you are interested in knowing how you can help my sister, the best thing you could do for her right now is to make a donation to the program she started and has been running for the past 17 years:  The MINDS Program  


no-facebook-symbol1 I’ve recently decided to deactivate my Facebook account. Based on the comments and reactions I’m getting, this decision seems to have made me more interesting than I’ve been in a while. In order to attempt to answer the many “WHY?”s I’ve been receiving, here’s one of those lovely easy-to-digest lists that the Internet loves so much. Look out, Buzzfeed.

1) I’m addicted to it.  I joined Facebook in 2007. That’s pretty early, especially for someone who didn’t go to Harvard and has been out of college for a loooong time. Since then, I have spent literally hours a day perusing its pages. Hours. A. Day. Do you realize what hours a day adds up to over seven years? I don’t even want to do the math, as I know it will depress me. Here’s what else I’ve done since 2007:  Gained 50 pounds and watched my social life plummet. I have been on Facebook so thoroughly and for so long that when I open a web browser my fingers automatically type in the url bar. I wish that was a joke. It’s not.

Mind you, I’ve cultivated quite a persona on Facebook (more on that later) and have two very active and engaged business pages there. Facebook also has allowed me to see photos and hear updates from family and friends whom I easily would not otherwise be in communication with. I have reaped the good benefits of Facebook. But the hours sitting in front of a computer just tapping that refresh bar over and over again like a lab rat with a morphine drip have greatly diminished the good parts. To those of you who suggest that I just “don’t log in as often” I have this response: What part of addicted don’t you understand? That’s like telling someone who drinks too much to buy the booze and keep it in the cupboard but not to drink any of it.  (And yes I’ve literally tried that. Shut up.)

2) It gives a false sense of relationship.  At a business conference I attended last week, one of the speakers said “You are the average of the top 5 people with whom you spend the most time.” (The idea being to surround yourself with people who will lift you up.) When I stopped to create my list of my top 5 people … I couldn’t come up with 5 people with whom I spend time. I spend time with my husband. I talk to my sister on the phone a few times a week. I talk to my other sister and my parents on the phone less often than that. I text my kids. But even then, do you see what happened there? After my husband there was no face-to face in-person interaction on any sort of a regular basis. But I chat with people all day long on Facebook.

At this same conference we were encouraged to nourish our relationships. Which is, I think, an excellent suggestion. But Facebook is not relationships. Facebook is “friendship.” I need more relationships where I’m actually talking to people live (in person, when possible, on the phone when not) and we can interact intimately back and forth about how we’re doing, how we’re feeling, what’s really going on in our lives. How many times have you had something that you needed to talk about but you didn’t dare put it on Facebook? Who have we become?

3) It gives you the wrong impression of me.  I’ll tell you who we’ve become. We’ve become a world of micro-celebrities. In the Facebook world we all have our Warholian “15 Minutes of Fame” and have developed our images accordingly. But are they who we really are?

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of “Oh, Leslie’s so loud! Leslie’s very opinionated.” I get that or I get “Leslie’s such a smart-ass! Leslie’s funny.” People with whom I have but a passing acquaintance seem to feel comfortable razzing me on Facebook and telling me what a loudmouth I am. I think to myself You don’t know me well enough to talk to me like that.  You know what I don’t hear? “Leslie is kind. Leslie is thoughtful. Leslie is smart. Leslie is compassionate.”

Here’s the thing: I can’t blame this on them. Two things are at fault here: Facebook, and me (not necessarily in that order.)

Facebook is at fault because it gives us the idea of connection. I’m reminded of interviews I’ve seen with celebrities, especially ones who’ve been on TV, who have the challenge of the general public thinking they know them.  And why wouldn’t they think that? This person is in their living room all the time.  I think there’s part of that going on. On Facebook, we’re in each other’s living rooms and bedrooms; in each others purses and pockets. It feels intimate.

Moreover, I’m at fault, because I have become very lazy in how I show up in the world. Instead of making the effort to call friends, schedule lunches or coffees or write letters I just pop onto Facebook and leave a quick comment or, even lazier, a “like.” Instead of taking the time to write a thoughtful essay, I just write a quick satirical comment that I know will get “shared”.  And, so, people come to think of me as funny, loud, and opinionated. (I thought I was being witty, satirical and observant but whatever.) People don’t know the more reflective, considerate parts of me because Facebook doesn’t show that, and I haven’t shown that on Facebook.

Or maybe most people on Facebook are just knuckle-dragging, cousin-fucking morons.

4) It gives me the wrong impression of youSee, now was that nice of me to question your posture or relationship with your cousin? Of course not. I’m sure you’re a very thoughtful, loving, upstanding person who loves their family and their country and just wants to do what’s best for the world.

Problem is, the stuff you “share” on Facebook makes you look like an idiot.

I don’t want to know what Harry Potter character you are. I don’t want to play Farmville or CandyCrush. I don’t want to click here to see that Obama is a secret Muslim or that welfare queens want to take our guns. I don’t want to “sign this petition to tell Facebook to change [insert whatever latest modification Facebook has made here]

I don’t want to partake anymore in the inanity.

5) It’s creepy and divisive.  As I said, I’ve been on Facebook for a long time, and a lot of changes have come down the pike. The biggest one for me has been the continued refinement of their newsfeed algorithm.

Every time you click on something or like it, Facebook factors that in to your feed to figure out what to show you next (along with the advertisers who have identified you as their target and paid Facebook money.) They continually refine, refine, refine to try to show you exactly the kind of things they think you want to see.

You know what this does? It divides people. Me, I’m a bleeding heart liberal, so when I see stuff that skews conservative I either ignore it, block it, or remove it from my feed. You know what that does? Makes more liberal stuff show up in my feed. Which just reinforces my beliefs and doesn’t get me any closer to rapprochement with “the other side.” Multiply that times a billion or however many users Facebook has now. Who is served? How does that make the world better?

It doesn’t.

Here’s a link to a really interesting article about a guy who did an experiment where he “liked” everything on Facebook. It’s very informative … and very creepy:  I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me

So that, friends, is why I’m deactivating my Facebook account (but not my business pages. I’m crazy, I’m not stupid.) Note that word: deactivating.  Facebook offers two options: deactivating, which basically makes your account seem to disappear but actually saves all your stuff so you can turn it back on if you come back and deleting, which makes it disappear for real.  So there’s every possibility I’ll be coming back at some point.  If my track record with giving up other addictions (see alcohol, section one) is any indication, you can bet on it. Thoughts? The comment box is open.

UPDATE:  8/28/2014 – Why I Came Back


My Appearance on New Day Northwest

by Leslie on May 13, 2014

Here it is! I had a great time. Thanks to Margo Myers, Su Ring, and Margaret Larson for making me feel so comfortable. And thanks to my friends and family who came out to the taping and cheered from the bleacher seats!

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